Supreme Court Bingo

As you may be aware, Supreme Court watchers often try to predict the direction of major decisions based on the Court’s habit of evenly distributing opinion assignments as the end of a term nears. Going into today’s batch of opinions, purveyors of “Supreme Court Bingo” like WaPo’s Robert Barnes were becoming certain the Court would lean Right in some big upcoming cases:

With only two weeks left in the term, the court’s four-member liberal bloc — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — has produced a combined 30 majority opinions.

On the other hand, the court’s four most consistent conservatives — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Thomas — have produced only 20.

Ginsburg, the senior justice among the liberals, has written nine opinions, more than any other justice. Alito, one of the most conservative, has turned in only three….

[O]ne of the biggest cases of the term — whether the University of Texas may consider race when making admission decisions — is the only case from the court’s first sitting in October that has not been decided.

And Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is the only justice who has not written an opinion from that sitting….

Only two cases remain from the February sitting, one of them among the most important of the term: the continued viability of a key section of the Voting Rights Act. The case concerns Section 5, which requires federal approval of any voting-law change in certain states and jurisdictions that Congress found had discriminated in the past….

From the March sitting came the court’s marquee cases of the term — the two involving same-sex marriage — as well as a voting-rights challenge to an Arizona law. All four of the court’s liberals have written opinions in noncontroversial cases from that sitting; only Thomas among the conservatives has authored an opinion from then.

Today’s opinions for the majority of the Court came from Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy and Bryer, so the bingo players will need to recalibrate their numbers (which will no longer skew quite so heavily in the liberal direction) and their predictions of who will write the opinions left. Bingo aside, Kennedy is assumed to be the swing vote in the affirmative action and same-sex marriage cases, and it’s very widely assumed that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is in deep trouble, God help us.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.